Our not-quite-empty nest was active yesterday. An early trip to watch Moana at the theater was followed by SIB, and then by roasting the world’s smallest turkey. Our new roasting pan, bought on clearance several weeks ago, helped roast the bird faster than expected so our six-thirty dinner time turned into five-thirty (yes, the bird was cooked properly…fully…and deliciously.) Once we realized our dinner time had moved up significantly we had to scramble to get our risotto done, and J was instrumental in egging me along to get his meal done on time.
One of the things we have been noticing is that J’s patience and willingness to wait have been in short supply lately. The boy (ok, young man) who used to savor his food had been barreling through meals. The pleasure he used to take in eating a meal was gone.
Last night he actually ate his meal slowly. Counting between bites instead of saying “one two five” like he had been. He put his fork down. He took deep breaths. He worked his way around his plate tasting everything. It was very nice to see that he was actually present for the meal and not just because he was sitting at table with us.
When he was done with his meal, and he helped clear the table, and went downstairs to his TV room, I felt a huge sense of relief. Instead of spending five seconds inhaling a meal that took a while to make, J had actually spent a good 20 minutes sitting with us, engaged in the event of eating together.
The night wasn’t perfect, but it was much better than we’d come to expect from all the recent upheaval. At bedtime he was mildly confused by the fact that Dada didn’t have to go to work today, but I explained several times and it got through to him.
Since then we have managed to get J on a more cooperative groove. He has started to wait better, to ask better, to respond better. The fog hasn’t lifted completely, but we seem to be navigating a little bit better.
We learned something important yesterday: maybe even the world’s smallest turkey is too much turkey for the three of us. I’m not necessarily talking about the amount of food. I think what we’ve agreed on, after batting around our thoughts on the whole social convention thing, is that we are still buying into an idea of holidays that doesn’t necessarily work for us. The thought of the holiday is thrilling, of course, and one gets carried away with the scents, sights, sounds and sensations that are piped through the PA systems, light displays, end-caps of store aisles. You see the turkeys, and you travel back to that simpler time in life when your family sat around and shared the joys of the season, passed around the stuffing, the bread basket, the gravy boat. You sort of want to have that back, until you realize that you’re in the kitchen trying to do something practical while trying to recapture something that is gone into the mists of time.
The one Thanksgiving in recent history that we seemed to agree was the best involved having brunch, and spending the afternoon in the park. The next one in the hit-parade is the one when we did it on Sunday because it was just more leisurely that way…
We are, as it were, going our own way more and more. Yesterday, as we returned from the movie theater, we saw several neighborhood husbands standing on their balconies, strings of Christmas lights in hand, a confused look on their faces. We made up, as we have the habit of doing to entertain ourselves, little “thought bubbles” for them. One said “all I want is to get this done so I can watch the game.” Another said “she wants me to do what with these?” Yet another: “it’ll be fun, she says. It’s freezing out here. Oh, she’s waving a bag of potatoes and a potato peeler at me…better get these up then!!!” Over a pint of ice cream later in the evening we asked ourselves how committed we are to the whole lights and decorations outside the house. “Do we even SEE those,?” Dada asks. No, we don’t.
We took a while today taking out all of J’s Christmas ornament, garland, decoration kits out of the Big Bad Closet of Crafts, and we lined them up for him. He was happy. He knows this means time with us sitting around botching some supposedly simple kit that only says “requires glue,” but doesn’t mention the dragon scales, hermit tears, ground unicorn horn, or newt eyes to complete. They NEVER come out looking the way the packaging says, and we are usually covered in paint, glue, glitter, and later on find foam dots glued to parts of our body that we didn’t even know were exposed when we put the kit together. It is hours and hours of doing something together for “in here,” and that’s because we will see it, enjoy it, laugh over it, at it…
Do we care if the neighbors go oooh, and aaaah as they drive by? Not really, no. The little competitive elf inside me pricked up her elfin ears when she read there’s a neighborhood Christmas decorating contest, but then I realized how Snoopy in A Charlie Brown Christmas that really is, and I shrugged it off. I thought at that moment that I’d just go along with my usual lights and garland, but now…
Look, it’s an extraordinary holiday season because we got used to an emotionally easier holiday season last year. We were on top of the world without the med, and with J responding to life and everything in such a much more positive way. I am not saying the holidays suck, but I’m saying we realize it’s not what we should be focusing on right now.
Tomorrow we’re going to buy wrapping paper for Twelve Days. I no longer have the luxury of a whole day for wrapping while J is at school, the iTunes playing all sorts of lovely Christmas music as I sip my tea. Now we have another new normal, and we’re making concessions.
J is not The Child whose birth the season observes, but he is the (overgrown) child we have here, now, today, tomorrow, yesterday, next week, next month, next year. We are shifting focus. And if there is something for which we gave heartfelt thanks yesterday it was because we CAN do that; we HAVE that chance. And we’re taking it…